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Thursday, August 10, 2006

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D-I-Y spells die.

Yesterday afternoon our washing machine got through agitating a load of kids clothes, and then, drunk on power, decided to agitate me by refusing to drain. In a family of five, a laundry malfunction is a major emergency, a domestic Chernobyl. Two loads a day is the minimum it takes to keep laundry from backing up and overflowing into the hallways. I twiddled the dial and pulled the knob and wiggled the basket, and then I told Patrick the situation.

"Holy shit," he said, before retreating to his office.

I gave him a few minutes, then followed him back there.

"I think it's clogged," I offered.

"Could be," he nodded, avoiding eye contact.

I felt he could use a prompt, so I asked, "What needs to happen for us to find out?"

"Uh, let me think about that."

"Sure, but could you think about it quickly?" This elicited an injured look.

I ignored it. This was no time for kid gloves, and I've poked through all the fingers on mine anyhow. My husband is a man of innumerable charms and gifts, but being quickly roused to action is not one of them. "Let me think about that" is usually a euphemism for "let me not think about that for as long as you can possibly be put off."

It's not that he is lazy or as they say around here, "no-count" (Okay, I can say it, but you can't). It's just that he and I are wired very differently. I am an extrovert, ENFP in Meyer-Briggs terminology. I think fast and out loud. I process verbally. My opinions develop on the scene, and are revised constantly. I'm like the 24 hour news cycle, complete with screen crawl.

He, on the other hand, is an introvert--INFP--and processes information more like an in-depth weekly on public television. You have to wait days to get his perspective on any given event, and it comes out carefully considered and fact-checked. I think his brain has four stomachs.

Becoming educated about these differences has helped us navigate through many a minefield of potential misunderstanding. He has learned that the words "talk" and "later" uttered in the same sentence will cause me to chew my own leg off. I have learned that the deer-in-the-headlights stare I get in response to "Hey, let's do this..." is not necessarily an out-of-hand rejection. Sometimes, if I stand back and give him a little air, he will come around on his own. Ocassionally, I have to bring out the smelling salts.

In this instance, time was not on our side. The laundry clock was ticking. Towels were being used, clothes worn. I needed a specific commitment. I extracted a promise of "first thing in the morning". Morning came, and with it, low groans and complaints of a bad back. Pre-emptively, I devised a scheme of taking off for the laundromat all day and leaving him home with the kids, but I didn't get a chance to enact it. Late morning, I was directed to clear off the top of the appliances and bail out the wash water so he could examine the patient. Having done so, and impatient with waiting, I went ahead and pulled the washer and dryer out from the wall. I believe Patrick wandered in at this point, but I shooed him back out so I could vacuum the accumulated crud. By that time, mania was setting in. I was feeling resourceful and infinitely superior to my aged and invalid spouse. I sized up the hose and pipe attachments on the back of the washer. How hard could this be? I googled "washing machine clogged drain". Piece of cake.

Patrick, by now standing at the ready, was demoted to fetcher of pliers and towels. "Are you sure you don't want me to do that?" he'd offer periodically, looking amused.

"Not on your life." By my reckoning, I was sitting on a veritable goldmine of spousal guilt. Having missed his moment as appliance repairman, my husband would surely be driven to overcompensate in all other matters of household maintenance. His very manhood would be at stake.

Apparently not. "I find this whole pioneer woman thing incredibly sexy, you know," he said, leering, as I squatted in the corner with my skirt hitched up and rubber gloves on. (I have been teased about this before by my girlfriends, although I fail to see what is so damn survivalist about boiling up some overripe berries with sugar for Sunday morning at the's just Jam, for godssake.)

I could see that my plan was now backfiring. I was dangerously close to becoming not only the appliance repairman, but the changer of lightbulbs and trash-transporter. A hasty retreat into helpless femininity was in order.

"Here," I said, handing over the pliers. "I can't unscrew the hose. It's too hard for me." Patrick looked skeptical. I batted my eyelashes. Then pouted. "You should be doing this anyway."

"Why?" he asked. "Don't you feel proud of yourself tackling this? Doesn't it make you feel capable? Like I feel when you leave me alone to take care of the kids for a weekend?"

Well, he had a point there. But I wasn't about to give it to him. And at the end of the day, the washing machine had us both beat. After disconnecting and flushing and reconnecting every hose, the damn thing still won't drain. At least we are satisfied it is out of pure rebelliousness and not indigestion. Undoubtedly it is being passive-aggressive about something.

And it is most certainly an introvert.

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Blogger Melora said...

Good save on that repair job! You came perilously close to becoming the official "fix-it" spouse, and that is to be avoided at all costs. I was unable to avoid becoming the main breadwinner, but I have convinced Ed that I don't know how to set up the coffee maker or fix the breakers, and I'm sticking to my "story."
Good luck with the washer. Plumbing is a nightmare anyway.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous lennie said...

oh for the love of all things good in the world...
The Bryans had a plumbing episode on Thursday, too! Our version had an outdoor scene, however, with a sweaty shirtless man (Rod) cursing screws and recycled boards on the back porch while his son (Vincent, age 2) was engraving every motion, every utterance onto his somewhat blank canvas of a brain. Rod was trying to fix the water pressure of the kitchen faucet (from the other side of the wall) while Vincent was asking one question after another about what Rod was doing. I went out to check up on the boys and Rod let me know in a NOT VERY TENDER TONE that V was driving him #%&*@$^ mad with the questions... which I, in my best neutral, buddhist-trained manner let him know that the unschooled technique that we have agreed upon includes questions at any time about how to fix a faulty water faucet or anything else, if the child is interested... The water pressure here is still weak, but you are more than welcome to bring over your laundry, and mingle it with my mounds, if your machine is still out of commission.

12:21 AM  

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